Risks and Payoffs

This week, Shadowhunters presented the fans with its very best episode yet. In both emotional and rational levels. Aisha Porter Christie’s script and Amanda M. Row’s direction delivered a beautifully structured and executed episode, both heartbreaking to watch but impossible to look away from.

That is what happens when people are brave enough to take risks. It doesn’t always pay off the way one intended – sometimes that means setting free the Queen of Hell. But when the pay off comes, it is just as glorious as the sword the characters need to find.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, and just like this episode expertly did, we have to set up the stakes.

Stay with Me

After six episodes, the storylines are starting to bear fruit. Clary cannot stand to live with the dark influence of the bonding rune hanging over her. Magnus has collapsed after seeking any means necessary to get magic back. Luke is stuck in mundane prison, self-punishing for a crime he didn’t commit. Even Jonathan is finally close to getting the Morning Star Sword.

Each and every one of those stories, however, meet apparently insurmountable obstacles. Even the Silent Brothers don’t know how to help Clary, Magnus’ life is now on Lorenzo Rey’s hands. Luke has no prospects of getting out of jail, nor does he want to. And the Morning Star Sword? That is in the revengeful hands of the Seelie Queen.

The only way the characters can overcome these obstacles is by taking risks. And so, they do. In a strike of desperation, Clary wants to summon Lilith and ask her how to get rid of the bond with Jonathan. It is a risky plan, even with the help of Jace, Izzy, Simon, and – unlikely – Cain.

Ironic how Izzy is investigating Heavenly Fire for torturing prisoners while building a way to torture Greater Demons.

Still, they all prepare as best as they can. What they cannot prepare for, though, is that Jonathan also wants to see his demonic mother. Only, his intentions are much more than chit-chat. If he can deliver Lilith’s head to the Seelie Queen, Jonathan gets the Morning Star Sword as payment. Quite the bargain: his sexual and emotional abuser for the prized sword.

Clary’s plan bears fruits, though not the ones she wanted. They learn that there was a way to break the bond; Michael did it by using Glorious, a sword imbued with Heavenly Fire. Too bad that sword has been destroyed. For now, Clary’s hopes are for naught. Or, at least, until Izzy makes the connection with the shady organization she is investigating.

But the plan’s payoffs didn’t stop in just information gathering. Once Jonathan attacks them, a fight breaks out. Lilith uses the distraction to bribe Cain into releasing her. The risk of having a millennia-old emotionally-broken coward as your best contingency plan? You fail. Cain breaks the Malachi Configuration’s hold and Lilith escapes. At least Clary was able to send Jonathan into the Institute’s cells, so not all is lost.

Talking about all is lost and the Institute, we have our emotional core in Magnus and Alec. With Magnus out due to his body rejecting Lorenzo’s magic, it is up to Alec to save the day. Which he does by taking perhaps the hardest of the risks in this episode. Alec shows vulnerability to his enemy.

No threats, no logic could ever convince Lorenzo to help Magnus. Lorenzo hates Magnus too much, he is too blinded by envy. What Alec needs to do is to appeal to Lorenzo’s humanity. In a storyline about the grandiosity of magic and larger-than-life characters, this solution could not be more perfect. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about supernatural beings or fantastical elements. What makes these characters compelling is their humanity, their feelings, their loves and fears.

It is only once Alec and Lorenzo put aside their differences and connect on a human level that Magnus’ life can be saved. But that’s when the biggest issue arises. Magnus himself is not sure he wants to live if that means being magicless. Not when he links his magic to his self-worth.

As gorgeous as Alec’s words are, props to the writers to still allow Magnus to be depressed. Another mature take on a complicated issue.

Once again, Alec’s rawness and courage to expose himself stirs the plot into the right direction. Alec rejects the notion that Magnus is only worthy as long as he has magic. He loves Magnus for who Magnus is, not for what he can do.

This reassurance is probably not enough to change the mindset Magnus has had for centuries, but it is a step in the right direction. When Lorenzo takes the magic away from Magnus, we have the perfect bitter-sweet moment. Magnus is safe now, he clearly states that all he needs is Alec. But that doesn’t mean he is happy. Magnus’ arc is far from over, but at least now he gets to stay alive for all of it.

Lastly, Luke’s unintentional risk in sacrificing himself has unexpected payoffs of its own. The first is Maryse’s sweet visit. The second is Praetor Scott’s creepy visit. Luke’s willingness to go to any lengths to protect the Shadow World caught the attention of the Praetor Lupus. Ignoring any agency from Luke himself, they have wiped out his multiple-murder charges and whisked him away from mundane prison.

The fact that the Praetor Lupus, a werewolf organization with no magic at their disposal, can do that is both awesome and scary. This is an exciting new plot for Luke – and for us, since we get to go where Maia is.

Personal Notes

  • The scene between Simon and Izzy would’ve been cute if they weren’t talking about how Maia belongs with her abuser, or if the audience wasn’t being treated as dumb with this “single for life” pinkie swear.
  • That said, I saw Simon attacking Jonathan to protect Izzy even if it would injury Clary and I approve of that message.
  • I want to see Magnus’ face once Alec proposes to him while Magnus has no magic thus, proving Alec meant his love declarations with action and not just words.
  • Two gorgeous sequences: Alec and Magnus dancing and the fight between Izzy, Jace, and Jonathan. Love and hate. Tenderness and violence. Yes, yes, yes.

Next On

Shadowhunters will be back next week on April 8th at 8/7c on Freeform and on April 9th on Netflix worldwide. Check out the promo for episode 317: “Heavenly Fire.”

Images courtesy from Freeform
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